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Is My Child Being Disobedient or is it a Lack of Executive Functioning?

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What is executive functioning? It is the part of our brain that controls how we think, plan, do and stop. How we think through something; how we plan to get something done; how we execute the task, and how we stop ourselves. For most of us this task is unnoticeable and our brain just does it without us thinking twice about it.  For others, our brain has difficulty with executive functioning, so, for example, our morning routine doesn’t just happen and we need many reminders every day to brush our teeth, make our bed and eat breakfast. Sometimes this disability can also present a lot like ADHD or ADD, but its not.  ADHD/ADD and executive functioning go hand in hand because many of the symptoms of  ADHD are problems with executive function. However, there is one big difference between the two. While ADHD/ADD is an official diagnosis, a lack of executive functioning refers to a weakness in the brains self-management system. In fact, many kids with learning issues, not just ADHD, struggle with some of the same skill deficits.

Executive functioning takes place in the frontal lobes of the brain. The frontal lobes are connected with many other brain areas and coordinate the activities of these other regions. This is also the part of our brain that handles our self-control and our working memory, or, our ability to take one concept and move it to another concept., i.e. the stove is hot at grandmas’ house and because I got burned on it, that means the toaster might be hot as well.  This part of the brain also controls the ability to begin and complete a task.

 

Child school student with yellow lightbulb and school supplies design elements. 

What can we do to help our child who is struggling with executive functioning issues?

We can start by creating basic routines and focus in on giving bite sized bits of information, often, and break it down to specific areas of the home. For example, when your child wakes up in the morning in her bedroom, she needs to get dressed, make her bed and put on her glasses. Then when she moves to the bathroom she needs to brush her hair, brush her teeth, and take her medicine. Each room has 3 basic tasks to complete while she is there.  Be consistent with the language you use.  “Get dressed = get dressed” every day, not “put your clothes on.”

Practice builds habit. It is said that it takes about 21 days to create a habit, but for those who have ADD or executive function issues it will take a lot longer and it could take years. We want to create that muscle memory. We want their bodies to remember to do things that their executive functioning does not. We want the habit to last over time. This is why consistent routine and language are so important and helpful for these kids.

Sometimes we may also have to be the external brain for our child until they mature enough to take it over; or, maybe they will always need an external brain to help keep them on task. The idea is if we are not able to do executive functioning tasks, then we need an outside brain to walk through those steps  for us. Things like a planner or checklist can help, but may also be challenging to remember to go back and check off.  There are other suggestions such as a watch that has timers and reminders about tasks, or even an app that can help our child through his day.

Is this enabling? Not at all.  Accommodating is NOT enabling.  Having a lack of executive functioning is NOT disobedience, it’s a disability. Giving our child the ability to function independently is not enabling.

Remember that we are raising adults and we want to be able to hand these resources off to our child as they grow and mature. None of these situations are hopeless.

Check out understood.org to help your child get organized.

Information and examples discussed in this post can be found online at Honestlyadoption.com and understood.org

Blog post written by Sonya Lundstrom, LSW, Post Adopt Coordinator in Grand Forks.

 

How to Prepare for Success on the First Day of School (and for the WHOLE School Year)

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Schoolboy stands in front of the school door. Back to school.

Along with the spiral notebooks, glue-sticks, colored pencils and boxes of tissues comes the well-known stress (and maybe even freedom) of starting a new school year. For those of us with families formed through adoption, this can be especially complicated. Making sure that our child’s needs are met and helping the teacher understand how to manage his/her emotions through the day can be frustrating.  Here are a few pieces of advice to help you help your child succeed in school this year.  (thecradle.org)

  1. Establish a line of communication with your child’s teacher. Make sure you take the time to talk with the teacher and share important facts about your child and what his needs are. You can include tips from other providers that may help in the classroom and also what helps at home.
  2. Provide resources/ storybooks about adoption for the teacher to share with the class. Donate some books to the classroom library. Tell the teacher why you like those particular books and why you think that they are important. This may help ensure that the topic of adoption is treated in a natural and appropriate way.
  3. Be aware of sensitive assignments. Some teachers like to have their students create a family tree or something to explore their ancestry. These assignments can be difficult for adopted children for many different reasons. Communicate with the teacher about any concerns with assignments like this and discuss alternatives that may be more inclusive for everyone in the class.
  4. Always prepare your child. We do not have control of others actions or words. Your child’s teacher may have an understanding about your family situation, but another student or peer may not. Talk with your child about things they might hear from other students and why they may have that particular attitude. Help your child with how to share their story on their terms in an age-appropriate way.
  5. Educate the educators. There is always need for more information and knowledge. If your child’s school would like to know more about how to address adoption-related topics there are many resources available to help.

This blog post was written by post adopt coordinator, Sonya Lundstrom, LSW. 

Themes of Conflict in the Home

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As a professional working with youth and families, I’ve noticed some common themes resulting in conflict within the home, specifically when youth reach the adolescent stage of life.  Some of these themes include the youth exhibiting anger and aggression, a constant roller coaster of emotion, lack of communication, and pure defiance.  Maneuvering through these mood swings and behaviors can leave a parent exhausted and with a feeling they’re constantly walking on eggshells around their child.  Sometimes we find ourselves struggling as parents and when we finally ask for help, we have a “fix-my-kid” mentality.  We know this is not a healthy approach, however, hold this mentality because we have exhausted every tool in our toolbox.  As much as I wish I possessed a magic wand I could wave that would make all family units cohesive and eliminate conflict, I don’t.  Unfortunately, change in behavior (parents and children) takes a lot of work and time and will only be successful if all parties are willing to do the work.

One of the most important things a parent can do is to understand the adolescent brain and how it processes the world around them.  Frankly, I could completely geek out on brain development, cognition, neural connections, the procedural memory, etc…. but I may lose many of you.  If you can remember anything about brain development, remember this:  The prefrontal cortex of an adolescent brain, which controls decision-making, is not fully developed.  In addition to adolescent hormonal release, your adolescent’s decision-making and processing ability can be comparable to that of a toddler.  I know, I know, this statement seems a bit ridiculous and frankly insulting to adolescents, but let’s think about this… When was the last time you interacted with a 3-year-old and what do you recall?  I’m guessing you learned fairly quickly to have eyes on them at all times or the next thing you know they’re eating sand or wandering in to a busy parking lot as you’re loading your groceries in the car.

Check out this video to learn more about a child’s brain:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gm9CIJ74Oxw

A key quality of a toddler is constantly seeking stimulation and exploration of the world around them, while still relying on the comfort of their caregiver when faced with new, overstimulating environments.  This is typical for children with healthy attachments.  There are similarities in adolescent behavior.  Adolescents are now seeking to understand the world for themselves and ways to seek stimuli gratification and reward.  Rather than learning to walk and eating sand, adolescents are equipped with vehicles and engaging is risky behaviors.  If the parent-child relationship is well maintained, adolescents will often seek comfort from their parents, which is often a bit of a love-hate script.

Advice to parents with adolescents who desire to regain sanity:

  1. Accept the fact that they’re not delicate babies.  They are young, capable adults-in-training.  It may be hard, but try your best to encourage and support their exploration of themselves and the world around them.  Often time behaviors occur when youth feel powerless and they have little or no control over their lives.
  2. Set clear and detailed expectations and consequences with the youth. Sit down with your child to talk about both of your expectations (realistic or unrealistic, all thoughts should be heard) and brainstorm appropriate “if, then” scenarios if these expectations are disrupted.  If youth is not home by her curfew at 10:00pm, then she will lose her phone for 2 days.  An even more detailed example would be: If youth is not home by her curfew Monday through Friday at 10:00pm, and then she will lose her phone for 2 days for every hour she is late.  The purpose is to ensure everyone is aware of the expectations and consequences, leaving no room for misunderstanding or misinterpretation, while holding them accountable.  Up the “corniness” of the whole idea and print a contact up, both sign it, and hang it on the fridge.  For warning, you will mostly likely get some push back from your youth about how “lame” it is or how “extra” you’re being, but trust me, it’ll help in the long run.
  3. They will make mistakes. Don’t “should” on your child.  Avoid using statements like “you should know better” or “you shouldn’t have done that.”  This will shut the conversation down fast.  When you use “should” when interacting with others, you’re sending the message of judgement and superiority.  Holding youth accountable in an assertive way will create an assertive adult.  When conflict arises, using simple “I” statements can remove blaming and allow them to understand how you feel.  An example would be, “I feel scared and worried about you when you punch the wall because you might hurt yourself or someone by accident” vs. “What is wrong with you?  Don’t you know you could hurt yourself by doing that?”
  4. Youth have this amazing ability to know how to get a rise out of you.  When things get heated, they know what to say to get you worked up.  Consistently across the board, respect is a major trigger for parents.  When we’re triggered, we begin to lose rationality.  I can’t be the only one who has had an argument with my child and after felt immense guilt for some of the words that came out of my mouth in the heat of the moment.  We’re human.  Don’t beat yourself up.  Take time to calm down, recognize your mistakes, own them, and don’t be afraid to apologize.  They’ll respect you for it.
  5. Continue to explore and learn about yourself. Understand your parenting style and why you are the way you are.  We all have a past that directly dictates how we perceive the world around us and interact with others.  The good news is, no matter how old were are, we can still make changes and grow.  Don’t be afraid to seek help for yourself.
  6. Get comfortable having tough conversations. In a world of social media and advertisement, our children have access to images, videos, and music glorifying risky behaviors.  It’s important to be comfortable and confident enough to have tough conversations.  As much as your adolescent will deny it, you are still one of the most influential people in their life.  If we don’t have those tough conversations with our kids, where will they get their information?

This blog post was written by Brittney Engelhard, Post Adopt Coordinator in Bismarck, ND.

What to Expect When Bringing Your Child to a Therapist

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Your child is struggling with their emotions and behaviors and you would like them to see a therapist. What should you expect?

Shawna Croaker, the Director of Community Based Services and licensed therapist at PATH, gives pointers on what to expect when starting the process.

Legal Paperwork: When starting therapy, you will need to sign paperwork indicating you understand your privacy, responsibility, and confidentiality rights; complete consents for treatment; and provide insurance information. Releases of information need to be signed for anyone you want your therapist to get information from or collaborate with, such as teachers or medical providers. Make sure to ask questions and request copies of these releases if you would like them.

Thorough Assessment: Expect your therapist to ask many questions. They will need history, family, medical, social, educational, behavioral, and functioning information to determine how to best help your child and family. Depending on your child’s age and concerns, your therapist may have you or your child’s teacher complete some additional assessment forms or questionnaires to gather more information.

Diagnosis: Your therapist is gathering information to identify needs and goals, but also to determine a diagnosis. A diagnosis helps guide treatment and is required by insurance companies for reimbursement. A diagnosis may be long-term, as with physical diagnosis, but also may be short-term and discontinued as functioning improves and symptoms decrease.

Explanation and Overview of the Treatment Model and Expected Length of Time for Therapy: The assessment process determines the treatment model used. Some models typically used for children are: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Parent-Child Interaction Therapy, Solution Focused Therapy, Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, among others.

Therapeutic Activities that are Appropriate for your Child’s Age and Development: Most children do not benefit from “talk therapy” alone. We know play and interesting activities help children learn, adopt skills, and process trauma and stress. Sometimes things discussed in therapy can be upsetting for a child, so therapists often try to end the session with a brief, fun activity, such as a game, to help ease the transition back to their other environments.

Caregiver Involvement: For therapy to be most effective, research indicates it is important that caregivers are involved to help support the child and guide them through skills learned in session. This helps to translate skills to other environments, as well as improve the relationship with the main caregiver. Caregivers should be involved in all aspects of therapy, from assessment, treatment, and discharge planning.

It is important to remember that therapy is not a magic fix and it can take some time to see progress. In addition to supporting the child individually, it is also helpful for adults to learn new ways to respond to their children’s big emotions and behaviors, and ways to enhance the relationship. Building this relationship is also part of the role of the therapist and will create lasting positive impact.

Nexus has two locations, Gerard Academy in Austin, MN and PATH in Fargo, ND, that offer Outpatient Services. The locations offer services from trained professionals that can assist with the stress of life that can lead to problems at home, work, school, or in the community.

This blog post was originally written for the Nexus blog and used with permission. Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash


Having trouble finding a therapist in our rural state?  Contact post adopt staff at postadopt@pathinc.org for referrals and recommendations!

 

 

You Are Not Alone

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This post has been submitted by guest blogger, Randy Haaland, a rockstar foster and adoptive dad in North Dakota.

Image result for bear trap ranch

We learned about Road Trip for Dad’s at Camp Connect 2017, which was a summer camp for adoptive parents that was put on by the ND Post Adopt Network.  Mike Berry was the speaker at the camp and he mentioned it during one of his sessions.  When he described it, a few dad’s seemed interested in making the trip, but after the camp was over everyone parted ways.  A month before road trip was to start I was contacted by one of the other dad’s that attended the summer camp to see if I would be interested in road tripping to Colorado to attend Road Trip for Dad’s.  I was a bit hesitant, but was encouraged to go by my wife, which we later found out was a very common occurrence.  After giving it a lot of thought, I decided to go along and give it a try.

We met in Casselton on a Saturday morning and then headed to Bismarck to pick up another dad after that we were on our way to Bear Trap Ranch by Colorado Springs.  One of the dads had planned out our trip because he had experience traveling the route that we were taking.  We shared a lot of experiences on our drive.  We also made some pit stops to sightsee and hit up a couple microbreweries in Deadwood, SD.  He had made reservations at a neat little cook shack called High Plains Homestead in Nebraska.  We ended up spending the night at a small bed and breakfast just down the road.  A couple of the rooms were in a barn, which was comical when we told our wives and kids, but they were actually really nice rooms.  After a good night’s rest, we woke up to a great homemade breakfast from the very interesting and down to earth owner of the bed and breakfast and then we were on our way.  The conversations we had on our road trip were well worth the 14 hour car ride.  I would highly recommend taking the time to actually road trip to Road Trip for Dad’s for anyone looking to attend it.

Arriving at Bear Trap Ranch on Sunday, no one really knew what to expect.  We checked in and claimed our beds in rooms that had two to three bunk beds each.  That night at supper there was a speaker that talked about his experience with adoption, which was really eye-opening to the amount of trauma our kids can come from.  It definitely helped me realize that instead of trying to fix our kid’s problems, sometimes we have to change ourselves and the way we discipline and teach our kids.  That night there was a campfire where we all got to introduce ourselves and learn about each other’s stories.  That night by the campfire really opened my eyes to realize that we are not alone in the parenting of our kids.

The next two days we really had to ourselves to do whatever we wanted.  We did some hiking around the area.   A few dads did some fly fishing one day, another group went up to Pike’s Peak, and of course we went down the mountain to a couple microbreweries.  I would say the most rewarding experience was going on a hike with a large group of dads through a couple old train tunnels.  Just walking through the mountains and seeing all the beauty in the mountains was breathtaking.  It really allowed me to reflect on my past with the kids we have had as foster kids and our kids that we have adopted.  I was able to just sit and think of things I could do differently from the conversations I had with other dads.  I was also able to think about all the ways I could improve on my relationship with my kids and wife.  Over those two days, it really helped me realize that we are not alone in our fight for our kids to be able to have as normal of a life as we can provide them.

The last morning we walked up the mountain to have a cowboy wrangler’s breakfast.  It was an amazing breakfast and it was great to be able to reflect on the past couple days with everyone one last time.  After breakfast we packed up and left.  Leaving was one of the hardest things to do, because it was such an amazing experience, but I was definitely ready to get home and share my experience with the wife and kids.  It is hard to put into words how the trip changed me, but I feel like attending Road Trip for Dads helped me become a better dad.  I have realized over the years of doing foster care that no amount of classes and training can help you deal with some of the issues that our kids come from.  The best training is learning from other families and hearing their stories.  When you listen to someone tell their story and everything starts clicking and you realize that they are talking about exactly what you are going through, it really helps knowing that you are not alone in the battle of raising our kids who came from trauma.

Randy Haaland

 

Click here for more information on Road Trip for Dads!

The Heat of the Moment

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Parents,

You’re in an argument with your child. Their behavior was out of control, they wouldn’t listen, you lost your cool, and the situation intensified. By the time you realize what has happened, it’s done.  How do you save face? How do you handle the next disagreement?

This is a common topic, one that leave parents feeling shame, regret, thinking the “I should haves”, and coming up with the “next times”.  You are not alone in this!  Remember:

  1. You cannot fix what is already done. Whatever happened, big or small, the words have been said, the actions have been completed. The past is the past and no amount of rehashing or self-punishment is going to change it or make you feel better about the situation.
  2. An apology can go a long way. You are human and no human is perfect. Own up to your mistakes! Often, kids can be taken by surprise by an adult saying “I’m sorry for losing my temper. Today has been really tough for all of us, hasn’t it?” Kids are often expected to apologize for things they have done, but do we adults always follow through on that expectation? Offering an apology is not only a great teachable moment for your kids, but it also shows your kids it is safe to make yourself vulnerable within your family.
  3. Move on. Give yourself permission to move on. As human beings, we all do things we aren’t always proud of.  Ruminating on these situations does nothing but makes our brains stay in those negative, gunky feelings.  Give yourself some grace.

So, how do you handle the next behavior issue?

First of all, DO NOT take things personally!  Kids are not in control of their behavior when they are mad. If you personalize this situation, kids then lose their stability in the moment and may feel that you are not a safe place to bring their problems to.  It’s not about you. In the heat of the moment, their brains are firing from a different place- a place full of body memories from their past. As parents, you have to help them bear their storm.  They need you to help them get back into control.

I’m sure we’ve all had situations where we know reprimanding during the behavior is not going to go well.  Sit with them at their level. Breathe. Demonstrate what you want their body language to be. Wait until it is done, then ask “what do we need to do to make this better?” or “how can we help you fix this?” Maybe it’s an apology or replacing a broken item. Have your kid help identity an appropriate consequence for the behavior.

Feel free to share your insight on this. What has worked for you? What hasn’t gone so well? Remember, go easy on yourself.  You aren’t alone in this!

 

 

 

What Do Our Children Need From Us?

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March 22, 2017 | Morgan Nerat, LSW

When parenting children who have been traumatized, or parenting a child who grew up in hard places, it’s often hard to communicate with them or know what they need from us. We are not mind readers, but maybe some of these hints will help you parent your children.

A Set Schedule
Some of the children in the AASK program were raised in a birth home that was not consistent, where things could change in a matter of minutes, and no one knew what the schedule was. Some of the children in the AASK program have moved to foster home to foster home or treatment facility to foster home too many times. Children need predictability due to their past experiences. Many of our children do not do well with sudden change, because it may bring back old memories or cause unnecessary anxiety. For example, when there is an activity coming up, have a talk with your kiddo and prepare them for this upcoming change or about expectations.

Figure Out What They Are Hinting at
Some children don’t know what they want and if they don’t know what they want, how are they going to tell you what they want? Have you ever had your child follow you around the house or maybe stare at you? You ask if they need something, ask if they need to tell you about their day, or you ask if they’re hungry, and their answer is ‘no’. You play a guessing game, but you are losing because you don’t know what they want. Try asking if they would like to play a board game. Try asking if they need a hug. Maybe they need reassurance that you want to spend time with them. Maybe they want a positive physical touch but do not know how to ask for it.

Reassurance
Have any of your adoptive kiddos repeatedly said your name over and over again? When you finally ask what they need, they might pause and attempt to come up with a clever question, because they did not know what to ask you when they started calling for you. Try saying, “if you are asking if I love you, the answer is yes”.

Privacy
You adopted your child/sibling group and you want them to feel part of the family, because they are now part of your family. Therefore, please do not tell everyone about your child’s birth history, how they entered foster care, or why their birth parent’s parental rights were terminated. Don’t be that person who overshares! If your child wants to tell other’s about their story, that is their decision and you can be there to support your child; however, also teach your child about privacy. We all know those people who want to be a bit nosy. Stop them in their tracks and instead, brag about all of your child’s victories and their accomplishments.

Claim Your Child
Oftentimes, I work with children who are looking for someone to claim them. You can make  little comments such as, “I’m so glad our family is complete”, “Our family is blessed to have each other”, “I am so happy to be your dad”, “I’m so glad I can call you my son”.  A family I recently worked with told me a student at their daughter’s school asked if he was her dad. He said, “Yes I am her dad”, and the look on their daughter’s face was pure joy!

 

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Social Media Safety

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February 23, 2017 | Sonja McLean, LCSW

 Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, etc. All examples of social media outlets, with the potential to be harmless or incredibly destructive, especially to our unassuming youth. Protecting your youth from the harmful side of social media is becoming more and more difficult and proper education is becoming the one safeguard against this.

When we think of negative social media use by our teens, often times sexting is the first concern that comes to mind.  When talking to your youth about safety risks of using social media in this way, keeping an open dialogue and setting strict limits is imperative.  In her book, “There’s No Place Like Home for Sex Education: A Guidebook for Parents”, Mary Gossart notes these basic tips:

  • Ask questions: Find out what your youth thinks about sexting. Have any of their friends experienced this? And how did your youth respond?

  • Help your youth brainstorm ways to overcome peer pressure and remind them that your door is always open!

  • Remind them that when they send something, those words and images are now “out of their control”. 

  • Encourage your youth to count to 10 before hitting send and to consider the ways their message could be used.

  • Help your youth realize that impulsivity can “come back to haunt them” and then they have no control of what can happen.

  • Be honest with them when you talk about risks and consequences.

  • Set appropriate expectations for social media use.

  • Ask your youth what impressions they want to give to people and how that impression can change based on what they send. 

  • Keep listening!

If you want to learn more about how to talk with your kids about social media, sexuality, or healthy decisions, ND Post Adopt Network has these books available for check out:

  • There’s No Place Like Home for Sex Education: A Guidebook for Parents by Mary Gossart
  • Breaking the Hush Factor: Ten Rules for Talking with Teenagers about Sex by Karen Rayne

Want more information on social media safety? Check out our webinar, facilitated by Jessica Schindeldecker of the Fargo Police Department!

 

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Dr. Brené Brown on Empathy

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February 23, 2017 | Sonja McLean, LCSW

“What is the best way to ease someone’s pain and suffering? In this beautifully animated RSA Short, Dr Brené Brown reminds us that we can only create a genuine empathic connection if we are brave enough to really get in touch with our own fragilities.”

Supporting a Grieving Child

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February 23, 2017 | Sonja McLean, LCSW

I attended the ATTACh conference fall of 2016 in St. Louis.  Cynthia Agbayani of Lifeworks Outreach Services, Inc. spoke on helping adopted youth grieve losses.

Agbayani noted that a youth once told her that their “heart was cracked” and another stated “if I start crying, I won’t stop”. Too often we assume we know what youth are feeling throughout their journey in foster care and adoption and treat them accordingly, but do we stop to ask them how they perceive their experience? It’s scary and uncomfortable to talk about grief and all too often we tend to avoid it, saying “it’s okay”, “don’t be sad”, “don’t cry”, “it’s fine”.  While we come from a good place in saying those things, we really may be dismissing the true feelings a child is sharing with us.  Their feelings are hurt. They are scared. Their hearts are cracked. And they are opening up to tell us that and we are essentially telling them to stop when we use those common statements.

There is a difference in grief vs. trauma. Processing grief leaves a general feeling of sadness, it can bring relief, and if there is anger, it is usually non-violent.  Processing trauma can lead to feelings of terror, feeling unsafe, and anger maybe physically violent (Levine and Kline, 2007). While grief is healed through emotional release and tends to diminish over time, trauma involves flashbacks, startling, and other symptoms that may worsen over time.

With grief, Agbayani stresses the importance of clearly and honestly answering primary questions for youth, such as “will I ever see my parents again?” or “what will happen to my parents?”.  Glossing over this information will cause confusion and further stress for a child. Your ability to answer these questions for your child and assist them in managing their grief will impact your child’s ability to develop a secure attachment to you as they continue to age.  Normal mourning may include expectations of return, persisting memories, fear of additional losses, and feelings of sadness that will come and go.  Symptoms of failed mourning could include feelings of anxiety, insecurity, as well as blame and guilt.  Youth may have bursts of overactivity, and may have an increase in anti-social, delinquent or depressive behaviors.  They may feel like something is medically wrong with them when there is not, or may become more self-reliant.   Keep in mind, while not all youth that demonstrate these activities have “failed mourning”, they are things to keep in mind as you parent youth from tough places.

To help a child grieve losses, here are some ideas given by Agbayani:

  • As the caregiver, make a list of what may be triggering to your child so you can pay attention to those situations.

  • Provide your child with age appropriate answers to questions they have, regardless of how uncomfortable that question may be for you.

  • Allow your child choices in situations that permit this.

  • Stick to routine as much as you are able.

  • Help your child practice answering questions that peers, teachers, and other adults may ask them (and help them in understanding that it is okay to not share personal information if they do not feel comfortable in doing so).  Give them ideas of what words to use.

  • Make a safe container to hold your child’s heartbreak and anger.

  • Help your child recognize their strong feelings and sensations.

  • Make a life timeline, listing memories, stories, happy and sad times.

(Levine and Kline, 2007)

And keep in mind, youth are not so different from adults. When we are struggling or grieving, we often call our friends or family, or find someone to talk through and process our experiences with. Your child also needs to process their grief with others who listen with empathy in order to grieve successfully (James and Friedman, 2001).

Grief does not completely go away. It will come and go in various ways as your child ages. How you talk about it with your child now will have a huge effect on their ability to handle their grief as they get older.

If you have questions on helping your child process their experiences or would like recommendations for services or providers, please feel free to contact me at postadopt@pathinc.org or 701-551-6349.

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Books referenced in this post:

Trauma Through a Child’s Eyes: Awakening the Ordinary Miracle of Healing, by Maggie Kline and Peter A. Levine

When Children Grieve: For Adults to Help Children Deal with Death, Divorce, Pet Loss, Moving, and Other Losses, by John w. James, Russell Friedman, and Leslie Matthews

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